Cyprus, the third-largest and third-most populous island in the Mediterranean and historically acrimoniously divided between Greece and Turkey. The Northern portion of the island declares itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus; the south the largely Greek-populated Republic of Cyprus with its capital in Nicosia. An island paradise, but also a fraught geopolitical frontline. And long a popular destination for thriller and mystery writers.
John Bingham’s Vulture in the Sun (1971) is a spy thriller featuring a British intelligence agent operating out of Cyprus. Bingham’s rather forgotten these days though was more popular back when his Tom Carter (the British agent we meet in Cyprus) was a bestseller. Bingham himself started out writing police procedurals though was a intelligence officer before he opted for the writing life. There’s invariably femme fatales, fights and Carter’s ruthless boss called Ducane.
Michael Grant’s kicks off the David Mitre thriller series in our chosen neck of the woods with A Sudden Death in Cyprus (2018). Mitre is a “fugitive crime writer” (aren’t we all mate, aren’t we all!!) living a decent ex-pat life of sun and cold beers in Cyprus. Then he witnesses a cold-blooded murder in broad daylight on Paphos beach, the FBI turn up and his life becomes far more complicated. There’s a second David Mitre book but our crime writing rogue has deserted the Mediterranean for Holland in An Artful Assassin in Amsterdam (2019).
Some high-octane thrillers: Paul E Hardisty writes the Claymore Straker thriller series and in the second book in the series, The Evolution of Fear (2016), Straker (who has a price on his head from the CIA accused of a terrorist act he did not commit) ends up on Cyprus, where he is drawn into a violent struggle between the Russian mafia, Greek Cypriot extremists, and Turkish developers cashing in on the tourism boom. In a similar vein is Andy Munro’s Kirkland Finn Action Thriller series featuring Finn, a Captain in the British Army 22nd Special Air Service Regiment (SAS). In Hellenic Storm (2022), book four of the series, Finn takes leave from the army and travels to Cyprus as a tourist, unarmed and unprotected, finds the island is riddled with police corruption and organised crime and teams up with a female Interpol agent, Eleni Petrides.
The four book DC Cat McKenzie Series was created by Susan Handley. In her first outing, A Confusion of Crows (2016), rookie detective McKenzie makes her name solving a crime. In book two of the series, Feather and Claw (2018), Cat is burnt out and needs a rest – so she heads for the beaches of southern Cyprus. But when a fellow guest, an American businessman, suddenly dies, Cat’s instincts scream foul play. Going on holiday to Cyprus seems to cause a lot of problems for many long running characters in crime fiction. Detective Mac Maguire, head of a London Murder Squad, has been the hero of ten books. In the tenth book, The Eight Bench Walk (2019), Mac perhaps understandably, needs a holiday. He opts for sunny Cyprus. But at his accommodation an old man falls from the balcony of his holiday apartment. The police believe that he was pushed and Mac becomes involved.
Not strictly crime perhaps but those not too sure of the Cypriot history might find Andrea Busfield’s Aphrodite’s War (2010) of interest. It is 1955, a guerrilla war is raging and four Greek brothers are growing up amid exploding bombs and sniper fire. They become involved, take their sides before a freak accident changes everything for them.
The Greek author Paris Aristides set her novel The Viper’s Kiss (2001) on Cyprus. Middle-aged private eye Chrisostomos Zaras is on holiday when a whiskey smuggler hires him to find a missing thief and a lost fortune. Leaving his native country of Greece for the tension-filled shores of Cyprus, Zaras immediately seeks out the criminal network of Limassol (the island’s second largest town) which includes Greek mobsters, drug traffickers, corrupt officials, and murderous Turkish separatists.
The Koniotis mysteries are a Cyprus-based series of espionage thrillers by Gina Drew looking at both Greek and Turkish Cyprus – from book one, Laughter’s Echo (2010), to book six, Homewrecker (2011), are all stand alone novels and all set on the island. Rachel Lynch’s Helen Scott Royal Military Police Thrillers series sees her character, in Book 2 The Line (2022), starts with Captain Paul Thomas embarking on a dive to the wreck of the Zenobia, off the coast of Larnaca, Cyprus. Within hours, he has taken his final, gasping breath in an accident below the surface. A new Royal Military Police liaison is required to pick up on his work, and Major Helen Scott gets the assignment.
And, of course, somewhere as delightful and sunny as Cyprus is going to have a few cozies too. Deb McEwan writes the Island Expats series. In book three, Family Matters (2021), Matt’s daughter, Kayleigh takes a job in Souvia (a fictional stand-in for Cyprus) to escape her abusive ex, she’s horrified to be a victim of a malicious crime that goes disastrously wrong. The whole series takes place in a fictional Mediterranean.
As so often there are a few writers people often talk about who just haven’t been translated into English as yet. Panagiotis Agapitos, a Greek academic at the University of Cyprus has written a popular series of historical crime novels (in Greek), set in Byzantium of the ninth century while Hasan Doğan is a Turkish writer who has written a couple of mysteries set in Northern Cyprus.
As ever a final book that is somewhat different. MM Kaye was a prolific and popular British writer, best known perhaps for her saga of the British Raj in India, The Far Pavilions (1978). But she also wrote half-a-dozen detective novels which are far less well known and remembered. Each were set in a different exotic locale such as Death in Kashmir (1953) and Death in Zanzibar (1959). She also wrote Death in Cyprus (also known as Death Walked in Cyprus, 1953). 21-year-old Amanda Derington who, against her strict uncle Oswin’s wishes, has decided to have a holiday on Cyprus. However, whilst on a boat to the island, she witnesses the murder of a passenger. But she has a nagging doubt that the intended victim was her. Admittedly, it is perhaps not one of the best mysteries ever written but it does have a certain sun-soaked Cypriot feel and is redolent of the 1950s.
Arguably it’s odd that there hasn’t been more crime fiction set on Cyprus. Greek-Turkish tensions remain pretty high, as a popular holiday destination there’s always scandals and, of course it has in recent years become a notorious haven for dodgy money and Russian oligarch shenanigans. So perhaps Cyprus is about to have a moment as real life events inevitably work their way into crime fiction.